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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

NY Times: Westport’s Plastic Bag Ban Laudable But…

The New York Times said in an editorial in Tuesday’s edition that Westport’s recent action in passing an ordinance banning plastic bags at retail checkout “is laudable but will have only a limited effect.”

The full text of the editorial: “Westport, Conn., this month became the latest of a handful of communities to ban some plastic bags. The bags, which have only a brief, useful life, can survive forever in landfills and are of enormous concern to not only environmentalists but local officials who are running out of places to put their trash.

“Westport’s ordinance will take effect in six months and applies to bags dispensed at checkout counters. Others, like dry cleaning bags, will be exempted. The aim is to reduce litter and encourage customers to tote their groceries in reusable cloth bags.

“The town’s stand is laudable but will have only a limited effect on what is, after all, a statewide problem. The Connecticut Legislature rebuffed a proposed statewide ban last year. Massachusetts and Maine considered similar bans and also backed down.

“Americans use and dispose of at least 100 billion bags every year. Although the plastics industry points out that plastic grocery bags are made more from natural gas than petroleum, natural gas is not a renewable resource and contributes to global warming. And about only 5 percent of all plastic bags are recycled nationwide. The rest end up in the trash, hanging in trees or floating in water where they menace marine life.

“There are other possible remedies, including a constructive idea that has taken hold in Ireland. In 2002, Ireland became the first country in the world to impose a tax on plastic bags. Use of the bags dropped by 90 percent, and proceeds from the tax went to environmental causes.

“If Ireland is any guide, tax laws may have greater impact on human behavior than recycling laws. Tax law could also be written to apply to an entire state, thus eliminating the need for town-by-town bans.”


Posted 09/30/08 at 03:05 AM  Permalink


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Just about every aspect of this editorial from the Times is a half-truth a lie or at best doesn’t give the reader the complete story. 

“all the news that’s fit to print”  Yeah right, as long as that news doesn’t contradict our far left wing political agenda.

Posted by Tom Werner on September 30, 2008 at 11:32 AM | #

As much as I disagreed with the RTM vote on the plastic bag ordinance, it was not a left-wing/right-wing vote. I have other adjectives I can use, but they are not partisan words. I voted against the ordinance because I thought it was simply a feel-good measure. From the numerous calls I received, other citizens agreed with my position. And they, like me, are not right-wingers.

Dick Lowenstein
RTM District 5

Posted by Dick Lowenstein on September 30, 2008 at 12:00 PM | #

Thank you Mr. Lowenstein.

Posted by Carl David Pino on September 30, 2008 at 02:55 PM | #

Hey there.  WestportNow apparently missed Wendy Carlson’s article about Westport’s plastic bag ban in Friday’s New York Times! http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/28/nyregion/connecticut/28bagsct.html?scp=1&sq=Westport%20plastic%20bag%20ban&st=cse

She quoted several people in town (and since the RTM vote, I have found that the majority of people I’ve spoken with, Republican, Democrat and Independents, are very enthusiastic about what the RTM did) and the article had photos of Michelle Weber and Kim Fawcett using recyclable bags when shopping.  (I don’t know either of these women.)  Kim, state representative for the 133rd Assembly District, which includes Westport and Fairfield, was the author of a plastic bag bill earlier this year that was rejected. “I was the only co-sponsor of the bill, so that tells you how much support I had,” she said. She plans to reintroduce a bill in the General Assembly next session.  “When you’re trying to introduce a cutting-edge issue like this, it’s important to get a dialogue going, and I think that’s what Westport has done,” she said.

That was the conclusion of the reporter as well.  Wendy Carlson wrote is that supporters of such a ban believe that Westport’s taking the first step will show other communities that it doesn’t have to hurt business.

“I think it’s going to start a domino effect. Westport is one of the first dominos to fall; I know towns in the region looking at this issue,” said Emmett Pepper, the Hudson Valley program director of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, a grassroots organization with more than 80,000 members in Connecticut and New York. “By Westport taking the step, it shows them it can be done.”

The article quoted First Selectman Joseloff as saying that the ordinance is not about paper versus plastic but about encouraging people to use reusable bags.

Wish WestportNow had shared Friday’s article as well as today’s editorial.  Together they present a fair analysis of the ban.  It’s not bad—it hopefully will be the domino that gives other towns the impetus to do the same thing.

Town resident Stew Leonard did make a confusing comment in Friday’s NYT article about why he didn’t like the ban (it takes many less trucks to bring his store the plastic bags than the paper bags) but I am sure it was taken out of context.  Getting trucks off the road wasn’t the main reason the RTM is encouraging citizens to bring recyclable bags into stores ... even to Stew Leonard’s.

Posted by Longtime Westporter on September 30, 2008 at 04:26 PM | #


Also interesting how Stew Leonard got involved; while this is his town: it is not a town he has his retail operations. I still think paper bags should have gone first (if RTM really wanted to ban retailers from using ‘disposable bags’): but that has been discussed to death here on westportnow, and alas to each their own.

Just now Westport retailers will have no choice. It is a tough law to pass, especially with the commonality/convenience many have come accustomed to in regards to plastic bags. In urban communities and cities the ban would fail
however initiatives that encourage sustainable living is the type of promotion we need to reduce our carbon footprints.

A ban, laws and restrictions, may create a more discouraged output, as exemplified by the editorial in question here.

Posted by Carl David Pino on September 30, 2008 at 05:04 PM | #

The best thing to come from all this back and forth is a greater awareness of the problems disposable bags can cause; I’ve noticed more and more people voluntarily bringing their own bags into all kinds of stores in the last year. And that, surely, is something to celebrate.

Posted by Stacy Prince on October 01, 2008 at 12:45 AM | #

Now, if we could only learn to recycle houses….

Posted by mary ruggiero on October 01, 2008 at 02:51 PM | #